I'm trying to set up a computer with 3 HDTVs as one big screen, with each display being rotated 90 degrees to form a 3240x1920 desktop. I have them all hooked up and working, but when I try to rotate them to get the desired arrangement, suddenly I'm unable to drag the displays close to each other in the display manager. This forces there to be a gap between the 3 displays.

Has anyone else encountered this problem, and if so is there a workaround? And if not, is there a different program I can use to do this?


I use ARandR (a front-end to XRandR) for this. ARandR is independent of your graphical environment; it is not a part of GNOME but should work fine if you are running GNOME or whatever else. (I prefer a minimalist setup and run Xfce.)

Screen capture of ARandR Screen Layout Editor

To enable a display that is not currently on, go to the Outputs menu, hover your mouse over the connection type, and check the Active box.

Once you have your desired layout, save it to a file (e.g. ~/.screenlayout/triple-head.sh). You can set this to load automatically by making the file executable (chmod +x ~/.screenlayout/triple-head.sh) and then adding it to Startup Applications Preferences in your Control Center (the saved layout is the Command, the Name is what you see in the menus, and the Comment is a description of what this does). In certain(?) circumstances, the configuration is loaded automatically upon launching your X session.

You can also switch between saved layouts in the same kind of manner; just execute the saved layout, perhaps with a keyboard shortcut or even a script to recognize the different monitors as they are plugged in.

  • Thanks, I'll be trying this out hopefully later today. I'll report back on how it works.
    – AgentPaper
    Nov 13 '14 at 20:36
  • Ok, apparently my original issue was that I hadn't updated to the most recent version of Ubuntu, as I thought I had. Unfortunately ARandR doesn't work for me, simply because it's too complicated for me to make heads or tails of. Even if I could figure it out, it would certainly be too much to expect our client to understand it whenever they turn the system on. Is there a way to set things up such that the computer automatically boots into using the three screens as a single desktop? And if so, a more detailed guide on how to accomplish that would be very much appreciated.
    – AgentPaper
    Nov 16 '14 at 19:19
  • ARandR is merely a graphical interface to XRandR. If you take a look at the "saved layout" all you will see is a one line shell script calling xrandr. To use the saved layout automatically, you have to add it to your Startup Applications. I'll adjust my post shortly.
    – Adam Katz
    Nov 17 '14 at 18:01
  • 1
    This tool is excellent. On Ubuntu 14.04 I didn't have to do anything special to have the layout preserved after a reboot, just laid it out and applied. Jun 19 '15 at 15:34
  • 2
    2016 - Had the same issue and this tool saved me! I have 3 monitors plugged in, and with this tool I was able to simply generate a shell script that I run everytime my computer boots up. Thank you! Sep 7 '16 at 19:42

Running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, I was able to reproduce your problem using both unity-control-center (the default "System Settings" manager for Ubuntu) and mate-display-properties (which implements "Monitor Preferences" for the MATE desktop alternative). If you just rotate the displays, it won't let you simply drag them closer together -- seems like a bug, maybe this one.

I was able to work around the issue by just messing around a bit (after setting the desired orientation). Here's a sequence that seems to work (given my particular starting arrangement):

  • Drag display 3 to sit below and diagonal to display 1.
  • Drag display 2 to sit adjacent to display 1.
  • Drag display 3 to sit adjacent to display 2.

It's like some kind of sliding puzzle, where you can't go directly from the beginning to the end, but instead have to transition through intermediate "legal" states.

Below is a screenshot after the first step is completed.

enter image description here

EDIT: 3+ years later, I can no longer reproduce the fix that I posted here. There is clearly a bug in the MATE version of the tool.

ARandR is nice for multiple reasons:

  • It doesn't suffer from the rotation bug (it knows the correct geometries for each display).
  • It doesn't have the snapping feature, so you can put the displays where you want them.
  • It lets you save your layouts as a shell scripts -- giving you a quick way to restore prior states
  • 1
    I think that, despite drawing them reasonably, when rearranging it doesn't know that the displays have been rotated. Basically, it is wrong about the location of the right and bottom edges. This bug (or similar) still exists in Ubuntu MATE 16.04.
    – nobar
    Aug 1 '17 at 4:42
  • as stated, this is workaround for bug, not solution but second answer is Jan 3 '18 at 13:39
  • Is there a bug already filed for this? Jan 6 '18 at 14:13
  • Bug report: github.com/mate-desktop/mate-control-center/issues/198
    – nobar
    Feb 24 '18 at 20:36
  • Some of these utilities modify monitors.xml, which is subsequently used to configure your display layout when the computer is powered on (or comes out of sleep). It seems that ARandR/xrandr does not do this, so you may want to strategically run one of the utilities which does after making adjustments with ARandR/xrandr -- and click apply with no changes just to save your preferred configuration to monitors.xml.
    – nobar
    Mar 5 '18 at 14:34

There is a very detailed and comprehensive post by Nicolas Bernaerts to rearrange a multiple-monitor setting using xrandr and make the changes persistent here.

The post mentions that it is for a dual-monitor setup but it can also be used for a triple-monitor setup.

  • The irony here is that because of the bounty I put on this, I'm unable to vote this answer up. :p
    – AgentPaper
    Nov 17 '14 at 0:47
  • The proposed link tutorial worked like a charm thank you
    – yvoyer
    May 23 '17 at 12:43
  • I like the tip to delete ~/.config/monitors.xml in order to get rid of extraneous configurations.
    – nobar
    Feb 24 '18 at 19:12

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